A Langley man arrested for an arson attack on his estranged wife and her two children has pleaded guilty to four criminal counts.
Andre Harvey Richard, who has been in custody since the April fire, made a brief appearance before a Surrey Provincial Court judge on Monday morning (Dec. 22).
Richard entered guilty pleas to arson, breaking and entering with intent to commit an indictable offence and two courts of aggravated assault.
Charges of attempted murder will be stayed by the Crown prosecutor.
Richard was arrested in Fernie the day after his wife and her two children managed to escape their burning house on Wakefield Drive in the Willoughby area of Langley Township.
Police said the three were asleep when Richard set fire to their house around 1 a.m. on April 2, then entered the wife’s bedroom and assaulted her.
When the woman’s 14-year-old daughter tried to intervene, police said she was also assaulted.
The wife and daughter managed to escape the burning home with the couple’s eight-year-old son and fled to a neighbour’s house where they call 911.
The house was completely destroyed in the blaze.
A warrant was issued for Richard’s arrest.
The next day, RCMP received a call of an erratic, and possibly impaired, driver near Fernie, 30 minutes from the Alberta border.
A witness followed the suspect until the vehicle — a grey Saturn SUV — came to a stop.
The driver exited the vehicle and ran into bushes at the side of the road, said police.
A crisis negotiator convinced Richard to surrender without further incident.
At the Monday court appearance, the stocky, bearded Richard stood with a written copy of the charges in his hand as the judge read them out.
Four times, he was asked how he pleaded, and four times he said, “guilty, your honour” in a clear, low voice.
A small group of people attended the hearing.
One woman could be seen tightly gripping the hand of a friend as the guilty pleas were entered.
Richard is tentatively scheduled to return to court for a one-day sentencing hearing on March 5.
Between now and then, he will undergo a psychiatric assessment as part of a pre-sentencing report.
– with files from Monique Tamminga